Old drama, and TERFs revisiting


I seem to have recently stirred up the TERFs, who have been making the usual TERFy accusations, including this one.

Apparently, the only reason I support trans rights is that if I don’t, the all-powerful Trans Lobby will rise up and cancel me and cast me into the outer darkness for all eternity. There are just a few little problems with that imaginary scenario. For one, my accuser says she was one of my “gaggle of blog subscribers”, and I wasn’t so protective of her views at all, since I drove her away.

She canceled me! Oh, nooooo! Appeasing my readers is all I live for, as everyone knows.

Her complaints caught the eye of the one of our “best bloggers” to whom I gave “the witch treatment”. Ophelia Benson had a few things to say about that.

He didn’t defend me. He refrained from joining the other bloggers in trashing me, for a time, but he sure as hell didn’t defend me. He privately begged me to stay, while doing nothing to defend me in public.

Then, in the end, he broke down and did a post saying I needed to “own” my mistakes.

Also, I wasn’t dismissed. I left. That “her dismissal” is a lie. He may have forgotten by now, but the fact is I left.

I will most definitely accept that final correction: before Ophelia could be dismissed, she stomped off in a huff, in the same way that Richard Carrier was not kicked out, but eagerly left the network before we could investigate the accusations against him. They both knew the inevitable conclusion would disclose that he was a harasser, and she was a TERF, and neither are acceptable around these here parts.

But I disagree with the claim that I didn’t defend her, or that it wasn’t public. How else did it happen that I antagonized so many good people in the lead-up to her departure? I struggled with that. She was one of our best bloggers, writing frequently and well, and I was in total denial that such a good progressive feminist could also be hateful towards trans people — I defended her, but did not defend her repulsive views, and kept hoping that reason would bring her around. It did not. She turned out to be far more rigid in her beliefs than I expected, and thus her departure was just a matter of time, and a question of whether she’d leave willingly or we’d kick her out.

Finally, though, it seems to be an article of faith among internet TERFs that I’m held hostage by immense numbers of trans people who give me clicks, and that is the only reason I argue for trans rights. That’s nonsense. If I wanted blog hits, it would be far more profitable to cater to the mobs of cis bigots, who far outnumber the tiny minority of trans individuals. The reason I support trans people is more nefarious than that: I’m a biologist, steeped in the dogmas of biology, which state that sex determination and expression are far more complicated than most people can imagine, and that there are more possible outcomes of the process than just two, and that humans are much more socially and functionally diverse than can be encompassed in a mere two categories, as if we were primitive ants with two castes. I held those views since long before I became aware that TERFs actually exist and think that they understand biology.

That’s particularly galling. All weekend long I was getting indignant messages from TERFs telling me that I don’t understand biology and that real biologists agree that sex is a discrete binary. It’s a bit like being harassed by flat-earthers trying to tell me that a globe violates all the principles of physics, or by creationists confident that more and more True Biologists are abandoning the theory of evolution every day. These are claims that are contradicted by reality and by the experts in the fields, yet they persist in their delusion, and no amount of arguing will convince them otherwise.

I should know that by now, but I have my own delusions.

Comments

  1. chris61 says

    Don’t know what “the real biologists” means but I think most biologists agree that sex is a binary, in humans anyway. But as you say, you are welcome to your own delusions.

  2. prostheticconscience says

    Chris61@1: what you “think” most biologists believe and what biologists actually know are two different things. You’ve got the oversimplified version they teach to sixth graders, from which developmental biology has long marched on. It’s like you’re in here insisting General Relativity is a delusion because “most physicists” believe in Newtonian mechanics.

  3. JoeBuddha says

    Yeah, I see sex as mostly binary (IINAB), but gender is not sex. Gender is a social construct and some folx feel more comfortable in the “other” gender. However, that’s neither here nor there. TERFs are not radical feminists, just garden variety bigots who think someone else’s gender is their business. Pro tip: It’s not.

  4. JoeBuddha says

    IANAB (sheesh) Oh, and since I have friends who are trans, I can speak more to it than your average bigot.

  5. says

    chris61: I am not nice to assholes like you, you know.

    You’re wrong. I have stacks of developmental biology textbooks that never once say anything that stupid. Real biology is what most biologists learn in advanced training in their field, and what we learn is that sex determination/differentiation mechanisms generally produce a bimodal distribution in organisms like humans, but that there are multiple steps with multiple possible outcomes that produce endless variations. Beyond mechanistic explanations, we also appreciate that the brain is capable of even greater variety, and that sex and gender are strongly dependent on behavior and cognition.

    But yeah, you go ahead and lie and spread misinformation. It’s a good way to finally get banned.

    Why did it have to be a particularly ignorant anti-trans bigot who makes the first comment? Why do they always infest these kinds of threads?

  6. William George says

    Imagine hating transfolk so much that you find kinship with shitbags like the Family Research Council.

  7. Rob Grigjanis says

    Although they may disagree on specifics, I see chris61 and markme as of a kind. They are so determined to find simple definitive answers that they’re not even aware of the anti-science blinkers they’re wearing. For them to think that science is on their side is the height of self-delusion. Reality is far more complex, and far richer, than they are willing to accept.

  8. Silentbob says

    The thing that gets me about the “best blogger” is that today she is full-on mask-off undeniably off-the-charts transphobic – but still complaining.

    It’s like someone complaining that five years ago no one defended them on accusations of murder, when during the intervening years, 15 bodies have been found buried in their backyard.

    At the time, I totally defended her because like PZ I believed her. But I was a sucker. Today, it’s undeniable that not only was everything people were saying about her true – it was a considerable understatement. What’s left of B&W today is like Slimepit 2.0 Transphobia Edition. An absolute cesspit of hateful bigots. Imagine still having the gall to complain about not being defended from claims that in retrospect were obviously… completely true.

  9. PaulBC says

    That’s particularly galling. All weekend long I was getting indignant messages from TERFs telling me that I don’t understand biology and that real biologists agree that sex is a discrete binary.

    My mind boggles that anyone thinks this is a valuable or even personally engaging way to spend a weekend.

    Do they consider themselves the “label police”? It must have scared the crap out of them that time Reese’s peanut butter cups were invented in a freak accident. Is it chocolate? Is it peanut butter? WTF is it? Get it away now! Auuuuggggh!

  10. says

    Silentbob @ #8:

    The thing that gets me about the “best blogger” is that today she is full-on mask-off undeniably off-the-charts transphobic – but still complaining.

    It’s like someone complaining that five years ago no one defended them on accusations of murder, when during the intervening years, 15 bodies have been found buried in their backyard.

    Exactly. I looked in there a while ago and just couldn’t believe it.

  11. Amy Peterson says

    Well, we’ve been accused of killing god, so I suppose holding a blogger hostage is well within our power. Anyway, thanks for not being a fucking TERF.

  12. PaulBC says

    Sex is obviously not binary in the biological sense. There are people who are anatomically in between as well as women with XY chromosomes (Swyer syndrome) who are anatomically female in every sense (though infertile). Like every other label we attempt to employ, sex is simply a clumsy term for a statistical center around which there is a cluster of variation including outliers that make the clusters impossible to separate. The map is not the territory. I think “real biologists” probably know that better than anyone.

  13. clsi says

    PZ wrote, “humans are much more socially and functionally diverse than can be encompassed in a mere two categories, as if we were primitive ants with two castes”

    I realize it’s largely irrelevant, but I’ve just been reading about ants (The Superorganism, by Holldobler and Wilson), and in many species, castes are not necessarily all that clear-cut, and at least some of the species where the distinction between, say, queen and worker is somewhat fluid are among the more “primitive” in terms of social organization. I suppose it’s relevant as another example in which development, being a very complex process, results in more diversity than is immediately apparent, but I’ll admit, I mostly just wanted to share something cool I just learned.

  14. oddie says

    Seems a bit like these terfs wrap their own identity up in their stupid, bigoted beliefs. That helps explain why they think when you attack their stupid thoughts you are attacking them or when you don’t defend their stupid thoughts you don’t defend them. I remember the blog followers realizing that Ophelia was a bigot long before PZ did. To say PZ didn’t defend her is to forget some painful history.

  15. says

    I’m ashamed to admit that I defended her, too. I really didn’t want her to be what she was exposing herself as. I got to meet her and she was so wonderful.

    But then she went full mask-off transphobic and it sucked.

    Not at all surprised to see them distorting history to make you out to be the bad guy, though…

  16. anat says

    The fact that a species reproduces via 2 sexes does not necessarily mean every individual of the species belongs to one of those 2.

  17. says

    Humanists need to come of with a better term than “TERF” to describe these people. Sure, they’re trans-exclusive, but they’re enforcers of reactionary patriarchy, not radical feminists. Feminists, radical or otherwise, don’t police men, women, or people who identify otherwise for their conformation with patriarchal expectations of gender expression and identity. You can claim to believe in women’s equality with men at the same time as you loudly and proudly announce your desire to force people to adhere to patriarchy-defined gender identities and expressions based on the shape of their genitalia and their bodies’ expression of secondary sex characteristics, but if you do so you’re only lying to yourself.

    They’re traditionalist woman-hating enforcers of reactionary patriarchy, i.e., TWERPs.

  18. iiandyiiii says

    I’ve been involved in an extremely long disagreement regarding JKR’s views on trans people in the link below. It’s been extremely frustrating. Even as some cis women might have some reasonable questions and concerns about certain aspects of policies relating to trans rights, the most active participants of these discussions refuse to even consider all the oxygen and cover that much of this is giving the bigots who hate trans people. https://boards.straightdope.com/t/j-k-rowling-and-the-trans-furore/855795

  19. Kevin Karplus says

    Like clsi, I was I bit confused by “primitive ants with two castes”. The grade-school version of ant biology I learned had 3: queens, drones, and workers. Since there are at least 12,000 ant species, I’m sure that there are lots of variations, but is a two-caste system common among ants? Or is the adjective “primitive” here crucial, designating a particular clade of ants?

    I’ve often wondered what the there-are-exactly-two-biological-sexes people think about hermaphroditic animals (many invertebrates, including our campus’s mascot—the banana slug Ariolimax dolichophallus), about animals that switch sex as they age or under population pressure (several fish species, for example), about animals whose sex is environmentally determined rather than genetically (crocodiles and alligators, for example).

  20. mnb0 says

    Lesson learned: don’t have heroes. People are peculiar – they can perfectly admirable one way and total suckers in another.

  21. says

    Yes, ants are far more complex than I represented — that’s the point. Even species where we think of them as having extremely specialized forms are messier than we can imagine, yet somehow humans are “binary”.

  22. birgerjohansson says

    “I’m held hostage by immense numbers of trans people that give me clicks”.

    I take umbrage to that claim .
    The real reason PZ defends trans people is that every weekend I dress up in a ninja suit , go to his window, gesture across the throat with a meat cleaver and hold up a sign saying “defend trans people or else!”
    (I do this because I am paid by the Bilderberg Group)

  23. says

    I was aslo an Ophelia Benson reader and supporter who walked away because of the transphobia. At first I dealt the more abusive comments hoping she would engage with the criticism. That’s what I did with manosphere crowd. But she didn’t and that’s where I got my introduction to transphobia and transphobes.

    It’s just wrong.
    You have a totally natural group of human being present at similar low levels across our population, and on the other side you have how we choose to use symbols that have only been around for a little while. Transphobes cling to the symbols.
    You have billions of humans that sort into distributions on a features when you measure them, but pretending we are individually like the averages in social assumptions is guaranteed to result in a mistake. Just let people show us what they are.

  24. birgerjohansson says

    mnb0 @20 Yes, we see this all the time, in culture, politics and science.
    För maybe the most blatant example, check “Knut Hamsun”.

  25. curbyrdogma says

    Actually, this whole debate reminds me of the labelling trick creationists like to pull wrt Archaeopteryx and other transitional forms. Creationists insist that by labeling something either “fully this” or “fully that”, it will invalidate its status as a transitional form. …As if a name, label or belief will magically just “poof” the material reality away. They focus on the exterior covering while ignoring pertinent physical details such as the dinosaurian skeleton underneath that.

    Indeed, biologists recognize that gender expressions are not necessarily “binary” or stereotypical, and not across-the-board set in stone in the natural world. Among birds and mammals, sexual dimorphism tends to be more pronounced in those species with unequal parenting duties, suggesting that natural selection (and not inherent gender characteristics) plays a hand in shaping those differences.

    Yet biologists usually acknowledge pertinent material realities. When a population of female lions in Botswana developed manes and more masculine-like behavior, no scientist referred to them as males. When a female New Mexican Whiptail Lizard adopts “masculine” behavior in order to induce its partner to ovulate, no scientist claims that “she” turns into a “he”. No one claims that the rare lactating male mammals should be referred to as females. https://www.nature.com/articles/367691a0

    Biologists recognize that secondary characteristics don’t ultimately determine “male” and “female”; it’s the gametes – how they make babies.

    Here’s another example of style vs. substance: there are species that mimic the style and behavior of a different species. The ant-mimicking jumping spiders come to mind. Why do scientists insist that these are spiders and not insects? Any idea?

    There seems to be a sloppy attempt to conflate and confuscate wrt this subject, and create simple-minded political divisions (i.e. claiming anyone who disagrees with you aligns with Xian fundamentalists) by conflating the definition of “male” with “the cultural idea of stereotypical masculinity”. You’ve stated in the past that sex and gender are not one and the same, but now that doesn’t seem to be the case.

    There are further attempts to conflate with “whatabouts” (i.e. what about intersexed people or those with genetic and hormonal conditions?) when not all individuals in question have these conditions (…no, just a “feeling”).

    I’ll wager most of those you call out as “TERFs” take no issue with the idea of gender fluidity and challenging stereotypes.

    It’s your adherence to faulty syllogistic reasoning that’s the real issue.

    It seems she’s given you the benefit of the doubt, PZ. When a scientist cannot apply the same standards to humans as they do to all other examples found in the biological world, one might guess the reason is politics/policies of your employer; peer pressure, etc.

    Humans, of course, present a more complex and interesting case than other mammals, given the influences of civilization, culture and psychology.

    In humans, enforcing gender stereotypes may have served a more useful purpose back in our agrarian past, but human culture is moving away from that, especially now with the Internet and its greater emphasis on communication and visuals. The effect of culture and environment on human population dynamics would indeed be an interesting topic to examine from the perspectives of evolution, social psychology and so on. Unfortunately it appears that politics, groupthink, tribalism or whatnot has clouded objectivity. Indeed, the human mind is a complex and powerful thing.

    But instead of framing the issue as: “it’s possible for individuals of either sex to express a wide range of behavior and style preferences, and that variation is something to be expected in a population of 7 billion” your camp instead is INSISTING that style and behavior are what ultimately determine “male” or “female” — which IS “binary thinking” and IS simple-minded, as well as reinforcing cultural stereotypes.

    Brains aren’t bones and muscle, and while the human mind is powerful, it isn’t powerful enough to erase the differences in muscular and skeletal development that we’ve inherited from our hominid ancestors. That is not “hatred and bigotry”, and it’s not “expecting the individual to conform to a stereotypically masculine role”, either. It’s just physical reality.

    It seems that much of the issue stems from the idea of fitting into human society, but unfortunately there are no concrete nouns that indicate a social role separate from biology. If new words and concepts were proposed (such as “femiman”) then most of what you call “TERFS” would probably cease to argue. If you don’t agree with that, then you’re guilty of “binary thinking”, lol.

  26. chrislawson says

    chris61–

    If you want a basic understanding of the current scientific evidence on gender diversity, you should read this: https://cadehildreth.com/gender-spectrum/

    This is still a simplification (for instance, I think the “bimodal” model mentioned is still way too limited), but it’s several orders of magnitude better than the model you have in your head right now. And even should you refuse to allow the knowledge to penetrate your cognitive barriers, at least you’d stop saying anything as knuckleheaded as that the biological consensus is what you remember from 8th grade.

  27. chrislawson says

    curbyrdogma–

    Calling criticisms of transphobia ”binary thinking” is the greatest example of pretzel logic since the Steely Dan album. You should be proud of how well you contorted yourself to ensure transgender people continue to be abused and mistreated.

  28. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    Humanists need to come of with a better term than “TERF” to describe these people. Sure, they’re trans-exclusive, but they’re enforcers of reactionary patriarchy, not radical feminists.

    I wonder why “Feminism-Appropriating Radical Transphobes” never took off.

  29. says

    @burpyrdog,ma! #25

    LOL, just so much wrong you’re funny. I won’t do any Thoreau response, but let’s hit a couple of your lowlights:

    Biologists recognize that secondary characteristics don’t ultimately determine “male” and “female”; it’s the gametes – how they make babies.

    If the anti-trans people being commonly referred to as TERFs & GenderCrits & FARTS (and uncommonly as TWERPs – see above) actually believed this determined male and female, then
    1. There are at least three categories, since many humans don’t make babies and many don’t make gametes and sometimes those that don’t make gametes are actually in the category of those who have already made babies, while some who make gametes pre in the category of those who don’t make babies. The conflation of gametes and babies was, shall we say, infantile, but even if you cured that error of stupidity, TWERPs could never call sex binary if they actually believed what you say they believe.
    2. They would immediately acknowledge that there is no human sex below the age of 10 for more than 99% of individuals.
    3. Given the definition “a woman is an adult, female human”, this inevitably leads to the concern that infertile people might take away scholarships for women or compete in women’s athletic leagues, sometimes even taking first place away from a women. Where are the fertility tests for scholarships and athletic leagues? DO WE BELIEVE THAT WOMEN ARE ADULT EGG-PRODUCERS OR NOT?

    create simple-minded political divisions (i.e. claiming anyone who disagrees with you aligns with Xian fundamentalists)

    combined with

    It’s your adherence to faulty syllogistic reasoning that’s the real issue.

    made me laugh out loud. There is a difference in logic between the statements:
    swans eat frogs
    and
    all swans eat frogs

    Alex & Robin are swans
    Alex & Robin eat frogs
    Therefore swans eat frogs

    is a perfectly valid syllogism. However,

    Alex & Robin are swans
    Alex & Robin eat frogs
    Therefore all swans eat frogs

    is not.

    You appear not to know the difference. It’s well known that multiple TWERPs have collaborated with anti-feminist religious fundamentalists. The conclusion, “TWERPs collaborate with anti-feminist religious fundamentalists” is the result of good syllogistic reasoning.

    And yet the person who accuses others of not being able to follow syllogisms can’t understand this perfectly valid logical chain.

    Project much?

    I’ll wager most of those you call out as “TERFs” take no issue with the idea of gender fluidity and challenging stereotypes.

    Bullshit. They think that they can tell who is and isn’t trans in a gender-restricted bathroom at a glance. That would only be true in a world where everyone besides trans* people conforms to visual stereotypes while all trans* people do not (or, alternatively, conform to some other set of stereotypes uniquely applicable to trans* folks).

    TWERPs routinely advocate gender restricted bathrooms as not only desirable, but also functionally practicable. Their world view and policy positions absolutely depend on the existence of gender conformity. Without conformity, they would have no coherent position at all – except whoops! We don’t have conformity.

    Well, fuck. I guess TWERPs don’t have a coherent position. I am forsook.

  30. says

    25 makes assumptions about inheritance and muscle. They don’t know anything about inheritance and muscle. They handwaved at a history that idealizes and forces people into specific developmental fates. If you have a penis you fight, and so do your other penis having relatives. If you have a vagina you…

    We craft that history into being with malliable.

    And that has consequences on dimorphism. How much of current populations are the way they are because we mold each other and ourselves over generations in genetic, epigenetic, and other developmental processes. It looks a lot like how people portray other biological subtypes like handed-nesd or neurodevelopmental differences.

  31. says

    But I disagree with the claim that I didn’t defend her, or that it wasn’t public. How else did it happen that I antagonized so many good people in the lead-up to her departure?

    I remember being pretty annoyed with you back then and resigning as a “Guardian” of Pharyngula over this, as did others. So you somehow managed to not defend OB (which people could actually look up on the blog if they bothered) and also piss off people who were not charmed with her transphobia. You are clearly a man of many talents!
    curbyrdogma

    I’ll wager most of those you call out as “TERFs” take no issue with the idea of gender fluidity and challenging stereotypes.

    Thanks, I needed that laugh. that’s the same people who call a man wearing make up doing “womanface” and claiming that this is akin to blackface. They go looking for pics of our trans bloggers and make nasty comments about their looks. For one thing they see everybody assigned male at birth doing anything considered feminine to be “appropriating womanhood”, for another they also dismiss everything feminine as inferior and a harmful stereotype, thus embracing masculinity as the default.

    CD

    Given the definition “a woman is an adult, female human”, this inevitably leads to the concern that infertile people might take away scholarships for women or compete in women’s athletic leagues, sometimes even taking first place away from a women.

    My problem with their bullshit is the other way round. Since they are aware that a somewhat arbitrary age limit is a bad look when you claim that your definition is all rooted in science and biology is that they often define “adult” as “onset of menarche”, thus turning millions of children into adults. They are so much about “protecting girls” that they’ll claim that my 13 yo daughter is indistinguishable from her 41 yo mother . Thanks, i just heard today that a former student of mine got pregnant at age 12. There’s nothing in the Terflandia definition of “woman” that makes this a problem since she obviously is a woman, right?

  32. says

    If your conception of sex amounts to little more than “pee-pee vs. wee-wee”, then maybe you should sit in the back for a bit and just listen.
    In reality, sex is a bewildering mess of gradients, exceptions, edge cases, and gray areas. You know, because BIOLOGY, MOTHERFUCKER! However complicated you think it is, you’re kidding yourself, so learn to love it.

  33. PaulBC says

    @25

    Biologists recognize that secondary characteristics don’t ultimately determine “male” and “female”; it’s the gametes – how they make babies.

    You have a reference for this? So sterility makes you sexless according to “biologists”?

  34. says

    By experience, I can tell this: transphobes want to claim that peopleì’s sex MUST be determined in an extremely specific way, and must be done with a very high precision – otherwise there will be terrible consequences.
    However, they’re also very quick to throw away that method as soon as it becomes inconvenient… while still claiming that they’re still using it.

    For example: a transphobe claims that we absolutely must distinguish between “male” and “female”, otherwise men will be allowed to invade women’s spaces and rape women. (I wish I was exaggerating.) They insist that it’s extremely important that we do this, and that we “correctly” identify EVERYONE.
    Then I ask them what they do to identify people’s sex. Their response? “I look at their face and physique.”
    Which is HORRIBLY imprecise. Just look at gender-restricting bathroom laws: I’m pretty sure that the number of cis women that were kicked out of those bathrooms is more than ten times the number of trans women who tried to use those bathrooms – regardless of whether or not they actually succeeded.

  35. methuseus says

    Thank you, CD and Giliell. I’ve been on the sidelines of this stuff too much to make a thoughtful post about how 25 was wrong about everything.

  36. says

    There are over half a dozen viable combinations of sex chromosomes in humans. So even at this most “basic” level, sex is already not binary. With that already not binary distribution starts the imperfect process of fetal development, and the result is a spectrum of individuals that can mostly be divided into two groups, but with a significant portion of those who have characteristics of both groups to a degree. There are intersex people. There are also true human hermaphrodites – and just because they are extremely rare, does not mean they do not exist. There are people whose phenotype does not match their karyotype – but who are fertile. There are also people who are infertile and produce no gametes despite having phenotype matching their karyotype. There are people who are fertile but with intersex phenotype. etc.

    That is a lot of complications even without taking brain development – both natal and post-natal – into account.

    Saying that gamete production makes the problematic suddenly binary and nicely sorts everyone into two neat categories female and male is just plain ignorant and no huffing and puffing and ostentatious displays of verbosity in a wall of text change that.

  37. woozy says

    It’s your adherence to faulty syllogistic reasoning that’s the real issue.

    And what exactly is that issue?
    Seriously, what is the issue? So lets say a transgendered woman could be determined by some biological standard (whichever is might be) to be fully biologically male (whatever that might mean). Um…. so? What is the issue exactly?

  38. PaulBC says

    Finally, though, it seems to be an article of faith among internet TERFs that I’m held hostage by immense numbers of trans people who give me clicks, and that is the only reason I argue for trans rights.

    I have to admit though, I’m fascinated by the thought of a horde of trans people, mouse at ready saying “Dance, little monkey. Dance for us!” Do you suppose they get together for PZ click parties? (Yeah, I’m probably getting way too into this.)

  39. says

    Biologists recognize that secondary characteristics don’t ultimately determine “male” and “female”; it’s the gametes – how they make babies.

    That’s cute. Gametes determine reproductive status, and you equate reproductive status with sexual identity, therefore gametes define the entirety of sex. It’s a bit circular, innit?

  40. says

    I remember a conversation at B&W at the beginning of this, long before I realized…a lot of things. I was saying that I’ve always felt like a woman, and OB was saying she never really has as such. I hope I’m not misremembering, because it seems important. Like, you don’t even strongly identify as a woman, so what the fuck do you care? I think that exchange might have been one reason I failed to recognize her transphobia – I’d assumed she was working through all of this in her own mind.

  41. JoeBuddha says

    Talking about terfs and twerps and whatever acronym you want. I’ll just stick with bigots. Easier word.
    And as I said I have trans friends. There was this guy in my office. Came in and left early to avoid people. Awesome programmer, but otherwise a mousy, miserable guy. And then he transitioned. O. M. G. She was vivacious, she was outgoing, she tried shit she never thought of doing. From a Model, to a Cosplayer, to a Cheer Leader. Still an awesome programmer, but damn. She’s gorgeous and amazing. I offer that as an example to tell transphobes to knock it the fuck off.

  42. dianne says

    @Chris61: Intersexuality occurs in about 1 in 1000 births. That’s not even all that uncommon. Sex is by no means perfectly binary. Most people are male or female but most people are also between 5 and 6 feet tall as adults. That doesn’t make people who are 4 feet 11 inches or 6 foot 1 imaginary.

  43. dianne says

    Several people that I was friends with on FB and thought were progressives and proponents of equality came out as TERFs. I felt more betrayed by that than is probably reasonable. How can people who understand the problems of being a minority race or sexual orientation be so perfectly bigoted about transgenderism?

  44. Grace says

    JoeBuddha:

    And then he transitioned. O. M. G. …

    I’m glad your coworker got to have that. That’s awesome. Edited for industry-appropriateness, that’s the transition I was hoping to have. But two of my coworkers didn’t want to share the locker room, even though I stated up front that they would never see me naked and that I had no interest in seeing them naked and that responsible adults could surely manage to say, “Hey, may I come in?” and “Hang on just a minute! …Okay.” Which was a feat that I and my fellow students had managed without issue in dorms and while camping all through high school and college. Even though I agreed that we could use the room serially for the first 18+ months, locking the door from the inside.

    That behavior was a large part of why I left that job, and that profession. (The behavior of people other than those two was the other part.)

    So JoeBuddha’s friend’s story and my story can be juxtaposed to make the point: bigotry, transphobia, has real-world consequences involving human happiness and human misery. And it’s not a zero-sum game; it wasn’t like my loss made their lives better. But the members of my formally-supportive community of faith behaved similarly (though more subtly), and I’m forced to see that there is something which people value, and which they get to experience, by denying me my gender and my pronouns.

    It remains a mystery to me what makes it worth it, putting all that energy into curating a human experience like mine, rather than a human experience like JoeBuddha’s friend’s.

    Separately, I’m reminded of one of our neighbors whom my wife ran across, about three years after I transitioned. He asked her, of my transition, “Is Grace… happy?” And when my wife assured him that I was, and that she was, he seemed deeply thoughtful, as though it was a genuinely new thought to him that any transition could have a happy outcome.

    It makes you wonder what they imagine we transition for.

    Cheers, JoeBuddha.

    Grace

  45. PaulBC says

    @50 I wonder if this is specific to transgenderism or just an obsessive need to fit everything into boxes.

    For example, some people are very proud of their knowledge of normative grammar rules. That’s fine, and I used to be like that myself. But when you begin to understand that natural language is only approximated by normative grammar, it becomes increasingly ridiculous to insist a dialect is “bad [standard language]” or that clear writing needs to be “corrected” simply because existing rules don’t fully describe its common idioms. I have met progressives who take this view of language. I don’t think it’s a political statement, though it probably fits some measurable personality characteristic.

    There may be other reasons as well, such as the simple issue of advocacy. If you’re advocating for one group, you may be suspicious that another is trying to reap undeserved benefits.

    It might just have to do with upbringing and attitudes that are so deeply engrained that they’re hard to shake.

    My favorite comment on this whole thread was Brony@23

    Just let people show us what they are.

    Like, yeah, why does everyone need to fit in a box? Can we try taking people at face value?

  46. Grace says

    SC (Salty Current):

    I was saying that I’ve always felt like a woman, and OB was saying she never really has as such. … Like, you don’t even strongly identify as a woman, so what the fuck do you care?

    It’s almost like they’re saying, “If I can’t have this powerful experience of gender then you whackos clearly can’t have it, either!”

    Grace

  47. says

    Grace @ #51 (thank you for your post):

    It remains a mystery to me what makes it worth it, putting all that energy into curating a human experience like mine, rather than a human experience like JoeBuddha’s friend’s.

    For the moment, I’m just quoting this because it’s a central question of our time, and a heartbreaking one. I’m working on it.

  48. JoeBuddha says

    @Grace. I hear you. And I’m sorry that this isn’t the normal response. But I was raised on ’60’s TV. I knew NOTHING about this. If anything, I was somewhat negative. This is what my wake up was like. This cisgendered, entitled asshole was transformed when this happened. I’m so grateful to have had this experience. I hope that you were transformed as well, at least a little. Just know that there are some of us who understand. Take care.

  49. chrislawson says

    PaulBC–

    I’m pretty confident that needing to put things in boxes does not lead to gender essentialism, it’s the other way around.

    Transphobia forces discrete categorisation so that the utterly compelling scientific evidence against discrete gender categories can be rejected (…which is in itself a furphy — trans rights should be universal for moral reasons, not scientific ones; even if there was overwhelming scientific evidence for absolute binary genders it would mean nothing with regards to how we should treat people who don’t feel they belong in their assigned category; gender essentialism is really not much different to “scientific racism”: just a grotesquely mendacious science-ish facade used to protect bigots from self-awareness).

  50. Grace says

    JoeBuddha:

    I’m so grateful to have had this experience. I hope that you were transformed as well, at least a little. Just know that there are some of us who understand. Take care.

    I’m glad you had your experience, too, because it’s valuable and wonderful in itself, and also because every experience like yours creates another person out there in the world who breaks some trail for trans people. There are some things where people listen to trans people, and some things where they listen only to allies.

    On your kind hope: Thanks. It was a wringer, for sure, but I had a naturally optimistic disposition, an abnormally high will to endure, and almost enough money to afford the expensive necessities of my particular transition, so I survived transition, and also the mid-transition cancer diagnosis (which didn’t slow the bigots down one bit, which was clarifying). In the end I kept my family, almost all of my friends turned out to be the real deal, and I ultimately found a better job in a career where people value me somehow without finding it necessary to agonize about my gender. Also, I found a better social community, where they value me for what I bring. In both places I’ve never been misgendered once, which sometimes makes me want to scream at the people in my previous communities, “Apparently this actually isn’t hard!” If it weren’t for the current political and epidemiological hellscape, I’d be thriving.

    As it is, well. Here we all are in this handbasket.

    Grace

  51. Anton Mates says

    chris61 & curbyrdogma,

    You know you could just look up scientific organizations’ actual statements on the subject, right? Or check the editorials in the most mainstream of scientific journals?

    When the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the Society for the Study of Evolution and the Society of Systematic Biologists and the American Society of Naturalists and Nature‘s editorial board are all publicly announcing that human sex is not a binary, it’s pretty obvious what “most biologists” believe. You can disagree with that consensus, of course, but let’s not pretend it doesn’t exist.

  52. anat says

    curbyrdogma@25: (Yes, I had to add my $0.02)

    Biologists recognize that secondary characteristics don’t ultimately determine “male” and “female”; it’s the gametes – how they make babies.

    Have you read a genetics textbook? Because all those I saw that had a chapter on sex determination discussed ‘phenotypic female’ and ‘phenotypic male’. IOW secondary sex characteristics. They talked about how X0 individuals are female if human and male if drosophila (sterile in both cases). So what are you talking about?

  53. chrislawson says

    anat–

    Strictly speaking secondary sexual characteristics refer to those anatomical and physiological changes that develop with puberty and beyond, e.g. pubic hair, breast development, testicular maturation, etc. This doesn’t minimise your point that sexual phenotype is vastly more complex than XX female, XY male.

    This error came from curbyrdogma’s post and I’m not surprised it slipped past given that by my reckoning curbyrdogma has at best a rudimentary understanding of the meaning of gamete, has no understanding of sexual dimorphism or secondary sexual characteristics, or evolutionary taxonomy (seriously, not understanding why biologists don’t reclassify spiders with some ant-like behaviours among the ants!), and clearly has read absolutely nothing in the scientific literature about sex or gender, just skimmed transphobic webpages for badly interpreted examples.

    For instance, the claim that sexual dimorphism in mammals and birds is due to differential parenting does not hold up. Among the most sexually dimorphic birds, the female does most of the parenting…much the same as almost every non-dimorphic bird. The brown goshawk and the brown songlark, highly dimorphic species with specialised female parenting, have opposite dimorphism. That is, the goshawk has much larger males and the songlark has much larger females. Makes no sense if it’s all about differential parenting. Then there’s the fact that one of the most dimorphic of birds, the peafowl, has multiple documented examples of changing sex as an adult. In short, the fool knows nothing about the topic…including that the general scientific consensus is that there are many factors behind the evolution of sexual dimorphism, not just parenting differential.

    Originally, the push for the parenting version of sexual dimorphism came from Bateman in 1948. But to quote a paper from 1977: “Current models for the evolution of polygyny and sexual dimorphism are largely derived from data on passerine birds. These models are less appropriate for taxa such as mammals, in which males emphasize mating strategies, than for those such as passerines, in which males emphasize progeny rearing strategies. The Orians-Verner model is inadequate as a general explanation of the evolution of polygyny in mammals because many species do not meet one or more of its assumptions: that the need for male parental care is the main factor opposing the evolution of polygyny; that females choose to mate with particular males; and that the female raises her young on the resources contained in the territory of the male with which she mates. A two-factor model incorporating the concept of sexual bimaturism, developed by Wiley for grouse, is more appropriate for many mammals but still too simple. In mammals, large male parental investment is a good predictor of both monogamy and reduced sexual dimorphism, but small male investment is a poor predictor of extreme polygyny and increased sexual dimorphism.”

    In other words, curbyrdogma has become attached to a model of sexual dimorphism from 70+ years ago that was known to be inadequate 40+ years ago, without even realising that these evolutionary models of animal dimorphism have absolutely nothing to say about the gender identity of humans. What I really don’t understand about people like curbyrdogma is why they feel so comfortable spouting absolute bullshit about a topic they clearly have no understanding of, knowing full well that their opinion is cruel and damaging.

  54. says

    @chrislawson:

    thanks for that. Good stuff in there that I didn’t know. I do have a quibble here, though:

    without even realising that these evolutionary models of animal dimorphism have absolutely nothing to say about the gender identity of humans.

    I think that curbyrdogma realizes they have nothing to say about gender identity. Instead of ignorance, I attribute a willingness to make arguments that say nothing on the topic to an active denial that gender identity is significant in any way. Deny its importance and of course you won’t bother making arguments that address the topic.

    Of course, curbyrdogma could be as ignorant as your hypothesis requires, but that’s not my perception of the situation.

  55. chrislawson says

    Fair quibble. I should have used the word “acknowledging” instead of “realising”.

  56. Dunc says

    When the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the Society for the Study of Evolution and the Society of Systematic Biologists and the American Society of Naturalists and Nature‘s editorial board are all publicly announcing that human sex is not a binary, it’s pretty obvious what “most biologists” believe.

    Oh, they’re only saying that because they know that they’ll be “cancelled and fired” if they say anything else… Such is the awesome and terrible power of the radical trans lobby!

    (/s, in case it wasn’t obvious.)

  57. says

    Oh god. Woke up this morning to discover that my twitter mentions have been overwhelmed with one long-winded asshole arguing circuitously and at ridiculous length for the sexual binary, with the twist that we ought to define bathroom use by genitals and sports participation by chromosomes, and he thinks he’s so clever and statesmanlike. I’m sitting here stunned by the awesome glurge of shit pouring out of this pretentious, unreadable loon, when he links to a Medium article wrote, which reveals his more familiar pseudonym.

    It’s Steersman, the pompous babbling slymepitter. Now he’s joined the TERF brigades.

    I blocked him immediately. If you want to preemptively clean up your feed, he’s calling himself “James Watt” and has the Twitter account @CyberneticsFTW. He’s one of those guys who has to constantly change his pseudonym to avoid filters.

    Ugh. I’d rather wake up to step in cat puke than to read anything by Steersman.

  58. says

    CD

    Wait til they get to the part where they tell you that they can determine your gamete production by the timbre of your voice or the thickness of your makeup.

    Or your finger length ratio. I was very surprised to find out on Twitter that apparently I’m a cis guy? Because my ring finger is quite a bit longer than my index finger. I’d have thought that apart from saying “I’m a woman”, which is qualification enough in my book, bleeding on the sheets once a month and having pushed two babies out of my vagina would pretty firmly put me in the category of cis women, but no, some rando on Twitter discovered my big manly secret, which was so big, not even I knew…

    SC

    I remember a conversation at B&W at the beginning of this, long before I realized…a lot of things. I was saying that I’ve always felt like a woman, and OB was saying she never really has as such.

    I have long held the opinion that apart from gender identity being a large spectrum, same as sexual orientation, strength of gender identity is as well. I always felt strongly about being female, mostly because people kept misgendering me as a child since I didn’t conform to their stereotypes. My girlhood and femaleness had nothing to do with the toys I liked or the way I behaved. And I don’t think anybody could have “transed” me as transphobes claim anymore than you can turn a trans kid cis.

    I hope I’m not misremembering, because it seems important. Like, you don’t even strongly identify as a woman, so what the fuck do you care?

    I think it’s two things. For one, it’s swallowing the patriarchal definition of “woman” as “baby incubator” and “the one who is impregnated” hook, line and sinker. It’s mostly lazy thinking, as it displays a profound lack of curiosity and inability to look past one’s nose. Did the categories of “men” and “women” get established based on perceived reproductive abilities? Yes. Does that make it a valid and sensible definition? No. Because at no time was the subjugation of women solely based on reproduction. Infertile women are just as oppressed, at times even more so. In Christian cultures “woman” used to be a condition of the soul, expressed in the body. Being able to bear children wasn’t what made you a woman, it was the other way round.
    Second, it’s oppression fetishism. A lot of transphobes seem to be middle class white women in the western world who have pretty little interest in discussing the complicated intersections of class and gender, or race and gender. (Just look at the UK “feminist” discourse on making a poor woman of colour clean your home during a pandemic because your husband is a lazy ass and calling that feminist). If the only category of oppression that matters is the gametes you allegedly produce(d), then JKR can be the most oppressed person on planet earth, while some poor trans woman of colour is the evil oppressor. It’s a method to deflect from their own complicity in systems of oppression. It’s no wonder they think that “Karen” is a misogynist slur as well and not a term WoC coined to call out white middle class women who perpetrate racism.

  59. says

    Steersman? Oy.

    I remember when he adopted the short-lived ‘nym “oaring about”. I don’t make any effort to remember the many asshats & they’re individual styles, but the ‘nym combined with something in his writing made it completely obvious to me, and I warned everyone that this was likely a Steersman sock puppet.

    Of course he denied it, because he’s just that honest. Later it was confirmed, IIRC. The whole thing is just so fucking pitiful. It reminds me of that Groucho quote,

    I wouldn’t want to join any club that would have me as a member

    only the lesson he learned wasn’t humility or self-deprecating good humor or even rugged independence. No, he decided that any time he was unwelcome anywhere then he just had to adopt a disguise and spend as much time there as possible, since if the places that welcome him are bad, the places that do not must be the most desirable places to be.

    In any case, he’s an abject asshat. In another case he even linked to a list of MRA-curated lawsuits to tell me that feminists were “arguing for routine violations” of men students’ equal protection and/or due process rights. (Pretty sure his argument was mostly about due process, but equal protection might have been in there.)

    Was I impressed with this list? No, I was not. Turns out that most of the lawsuits were against private universities and didn’t even allege due process violations, since they couldn’t, since that’s a right one has against the government not against a business with whom you have a contract for services. The remainder were similarly unimpressive for other reasons, but included at least one I remember clearly where the MRAs listed the “outcome” as being the exact opposite of what the outcome actually was because the case was won by the student at trial court and immediately reversed on appeal. IIRC it was not only reversed, but the appeals court used highly critical language about the trial judge’s actions and interpretations, rather than simply saying the lower court “erred” or some other language deemed judicially neutral in legal circles.

    Of course, even if due process violations had been routine, that wouldn’t have told me that feminists were arguing for that outcome. No, he was so deep in his “feminists unfairly think all men are rapists and want to lock us all up in violation of the constitution” MRA talking points, that he didn’t notice that his “evidence” couldn’t even possibly support the claim he had actually made.

    So… why is all this relevant? Because it shows that he was reflexively, unreasonably anti-feminist, and that this is yet another point of intersection between the anti-feminists and the anti-trans asshats.

    The more time goes on, the more the Venn diagram of anti-feminists and anti-trans asshats begins to resemble a bullseye.

  60. says

    Salty Current @46
    “[Ophelia doesn’t] even strongly identify as a woman, so what the fuck [does she] care?”
    Just occurred to me that she might well be reasoning that having a female-coded body is what makes her a woman.
    I think she’s refusing to work through it and clinging to what she “knows” because it’s comfortable.
    It’s a shitty place to be, but it absolutely does not excuse her being a raging asshat and taking it out on trans people for daring to challenge what she “knows to be true”.

  61. says

    @68 WMDKitty

    I think this is a disturbingly common PoV among a certain stratum of TERFs.

    They hate, or are at best indifferent to, their bodies. They hate the oppression they experience being treated like women, which they consider to be entirely BECAUSE of those bodies. But, believing this is the very defining concept, that trans people are not real, CANNOT be real… now you see where some of the conspiracy theories come from. In their world view, being a woman sucks HARD and nobody would choose it, and all feminist empowerment imagery is an attempt to push back against this absolute fact, and so a ‘man’ claiming to be a woman who would rather live that way is, to them, literally Rachel Dolezal. Someone pretending not to have a greater position of privilege, and the only reason they can think of that anyone would choose to stop being a man (which is privilege and power and wonderful) and live like a woman instead (which is awful and smelly and horrible) is they must have some twisted intense underlying sexual desire intense enough to override all of that, and are lying anyway…

    They believe this hard and dogmatically because it comes down to axiomatically believing that trans people are impossible, and being a woman is awful.

  62. says

    Abbey @69 — It does make a twisted sort of sense, but it’s so gross. How far down that rabbit hole does one have to go to get to the point of straight up telling people, “You don’t exist”?

  63. stringquartet says

    “I’m a biologist, steeped in the dogmas of biology, which state that sex determination and expression are far more complicated than most people can imagine, and that there are more possible outcomes of the process than just two”
    May I take this to mean that you contend that each unique permutation of anatomical features and genetics is to be considered its own sex?

    Related, is it true that you claim horses to have 7 sexes, or was that comment tongue-in-cheek, taken out of context, or similar?

  64. PaulBC says

    @71

    May I take this to mean that you contend that each unique permutation of anatomical features and genetics is to be considered its own sex?

    I’m not a biologist, but I think this misses the point. Classifications completely useless when they explode in complexity, so no, I don’t think that’s a reasonable contention (my answer, not PZ’s). But for just that reason, classifications can never fully reflect reality. Classifications are a convenient fiction.

    Take something like movie classifications. You could have a comedy, a drama, an action film, etc. You can have combinations of these: “dramedy”, “action comedy.” You can also potentially have a film that defies classification, whether intentionally or not. Viewers come away with different reactions (this could be good or bad). The filmmaker may just have a story to tell and was not concerned with pigeonholing it.

    Biology is even more complex and there’s nobody there to set the rules. The classifications male and female work well for a large percentage. For a smaller percentage they may not be descriptive at all. There could be complete outliers. Human beings existed before we made up these terms.

    The map is not the territory. Maps are useful in approximating reality, but they’re inherently procrustean. It is never an individual’s failure to fit terms like “male” and “female”. It is a failure of those terms to fully describe a complex reality.

  65. Silentbob says

    @ 71 stringquartet

    PaulBC beat me to it as I typed, but…

    What’s with trying to force things into integers? PZ says their are more than two possible outcomes to sexual differentiation and you want to interpret this as more “sexes”.

    No of course he didn’t say there’s seven sexes of horses. Some transphobe as a lame “gotcha” asked how many sexes horses have and PZ started reeling off all the different categories we put horses into. The point (I surmise) it that the way we choose to categorise things is a simplified model of reality, not objective truth, such that we could categorise things differently and it would be equally valid (or invalid depending on how you look at it).

    He did a whole (short) video on this: The Fallacy of “Biological Sex”

  66. says

    May I take this to mean that you contend that each unique permutation of anatomical features and genetics is to be considered its own sex?

    IIUC, PZ is attempting to point out that while the individual features are facts about the organisms to which they pertain, the classifications to which we assign them are constructed categories. As a horse breeder, it might be very useful to know which horses can get pregnant, which horses can impregnate, and which can do neither. But as humans with imperfect knowledge, we have historically assumed that we can assign animals to these categories which are not directly observable according to traits that are visible and happen to correlate into clusters with pregnancy-capable, insemination-capable, and capable as neither clustering with those other traits in ways that occur frequently enough to make useful predictions.

    But since humans have historically used the other categories to sex horses, it’s interesting to note that using the same observable facts, persons with different priorities could have come up with very different categories.

    The facts are the same, the meaning we give to those facts dramatically change. And it’s no good saying that the presence of a vulva is not “sex” because sex is “really” about ova or the ability to become pregnant or some such, because the presence of vulvae has been used to sex horses and other living things for millennia. What coherent justification is there, then, to say that vulvae count when they lead to a correct prediction of the ability to become pregnant, but do not count when they lead to an incorrect prediction?

    Such a system is incoherent. Either they count or they don’t. If commonly used sex-markers count, then horses could be sexed in many different ways. PZ might have listed 7, but we could create many more. If commonly used sex markers don’t count, and only production of ova/sperm or ability to become pregnant / to inseminate a pregnancy-capable animal actually count, then the people who are screaming that there are only 2 sexes have to stop saying that they can tell who belongs in which category by utilizing common visible sex markers that tend to correlate with actual sex but are NOT actual sex.

    The TWERPs want it both ways: only ability to become pregnant or ability to inseminate is “real” sex, but also there are no people who are neither despite many people who can perform neither of these biological functions, and even further that they can tell at a glance what sex people are when that is not a measure of sex under the TWERPs’ own definitions.

    The point isn’t that horses have 7 sexes. The point is that TWERPs are advancing an incoherent system of classification where observable correlative markers are not “true” sex unless it’s a TWERP observing those markers.

  67. says

    What they said. I was pointing out that categories are fluid and subjective, that we can assign them to whatever value we want, and that horse breeders, as an example, find it useful to distinguish horses by many more types than “boy horse” and “girl horse”. And then the TERFs freaked out.

    I’ve pointed out previously that a biologist might find it useful to classify a colony of spiders into male and female when they are viewed through the lens of reproduction alone. But that’s not the only lens we can use, and it’s a highly inappropriate one to use for framing human interactions. I’m not going to have sex with, let alone reproduce with, 99.999999% of the people I meet. TERFs want me to define human society in terms of who produces viable ova for me? That’s wack. Those are grossly skewed perspectives.

  68. Anton Mates says

    @ 71 stringquartet,

    May I take this to mean that you contend that each unique permutation of anatomical features and genetics is to be considered its own sex?

    It can be considered its own sex. Whether it is to be considered its own sex is context-dependent. Who is doing the considering? Why do they need to make a sex determination at all? What question are they trying to answer, what courses of action are they choosing between?

    It may be helpful to consider the analogy with color.

    When you’re a child in our culture, you often learn that there are seven colors of the rainbow, ROYGBIV. (You then promptly forget about indigo.)

    As you grow up, you learn names for colors that can’t be found anywhere on the rainbow, like grey and brown and purple.

    You also learn that there are colors that lie across these categories, so that it makes sense to talk about reddish-orange or blue-green.

    Later. you learn of more sharply defined color categories like “lavender” or “beige” or “fire engine red”; most of these could fit under more general color categories you already knew, but it’s useful to give them their own labels because they hold practical or social significance. The number of these color categories in actual use is vast, so at some point you have to systematize them with a reference system like Pantone’s color chips.

    Eventually, if you work in science or engineering or the visual arts, you find yourself having to distinguish so many different colors that it’s pointless to assign each one a special name. In this case you abandon discrete color categories entirely, in favor of continuous spectra of variation, That allows you to identify colors like “565-570 nanometers in wavelength”, or “RGB (1.0, 0.3, 0.8)”. At this point the number of colors you can distinguish semantically if you need to is basically infinite.

    So…how many colors are there “really?” The small child will say seven; the painter will say ten thousand; the sensory psychologist will perhaps say several million; the mathematician will say an uncountably infinite number. None of them is wrong, in their sphere. But even the child will quickly learn that trying to jam every observed color into a small number of categories is not useful.

    Sex works the same way, except that trying to jam every living person into a binary sex system is actively harmful as well as useless. The color aquamarine doesn’t have to worry about getting jailed or murdered by blue/green purists.

  69. chris61 says

    @pzmyers

    I’ve pointed out previously that a biologist might find it useful to classify a colony of spiders into male and female when they are viewed through the lens of reproduction alone. But that’s not the only lens we can use, and it’s a highly inappropriate one to use for framing human interactions.

    As long as we, as a society, see segregation of sports into female and male as valid then the question of who is a woman and who isn’t remains relevant. If sex is a spectrum then why should there be separate sports categories for men and women? Let them compete together!

  70. John Morales says

    chris61, alternatively:

    As long as we, as a society, see segregation of clothing into female and male as valid then the question of who is a woman and who isn’t remains relevant. If sex is a spectrum then why should there be separate clothing categories for men and women? Let them compete together!

  71. PaulBC says

    As long as we as a society see segregation of candy into chocolate and peanut butter as valid, then the question of who got chocolate in my peanut butter (or vice versa) remains relevant. If candy is a spectrum then why should there be separate candy categories for chocolate and peanut butter. Let them be combined into one glorious confection!

  72. chris61 says

    @61 Crip Dyke,

    Serious question: in your opinion, were their any reasons other than production of different gametes that led to sex-segregated sports leagues?

    Yes. Differences in muscle mass, upper body strength and other features make it difficult (apparently) for women to successfully compete against men in certain sports. World athletic records would appear to bear this out but if this is, in fact, untrue then we should abolish sex segregated sports.

    @80 Paul BC

    If candy is a spectrum then why should there be separate candy categories for chocolate and peanut butter. Let them be combined into one glorious confection!

    Count me in!!

    @79 John Morales

    As long as we, as a society, see segregation of clothing into female and male as valid then the question of who is a woman and who isn’t remains relevant. If sex is a spectrum then why should there be separate clothing categories for men and women? Let them compete together!

    Not quite the same thing is it? There are no restrictions governing clothing choices. Anyone can wear any clothing they please.

  73. says

    @chris61

    Yes. Differences in muscle mass, upper body strength and other features make it difficult (apparently) for women to successfully compete against men in certain sports. World athletic records would appear to bear this out but if this is, in fact, untrue then we should abolish sex segregated sports.

    If these are your reasons for segregation, then you have no reasons to segregate based on chromosomes or gamete production or ability to become pregnant or inseminate another person who can become pregnant.

    What is the point of “sex segregation” if the problem isn’t sex but rather muscle mass & upper body strength? It seems to me that, accepting your premises for the purposes of the argument, you’ve made no case for sex segregation at all.

  74. Anton Mates says

    @chris61,

    If sex is a spectrum then why should there be separate sports categories for men and women? Let them compete together!

    Age is a spectrum. Should five-year-olds and thirty-year-olds always compete together?

    Weight is a spectrum. Should heavyweights and bantamweights always compete together?

    @Crip Dyke,

    Prisms disproportionately house wavelengths of color.

    That’s only because you SJWs insist on playing the wavelength card! If only our society could learn to see all light as white, I’m sure the prisms would follow suit on their own.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to lobby the school board to remove optics from the physics curriculum. It’s so divisive.

  75. says

    Are the penises making the muscle mass increase? Is that the correlation? Or is it one if the social behaviors tied to testosterone? It can’t be the testosterone puff that makes penises, that’s a brief and local event. Is it the bigoted social disposition against and/or lack of social support for women/afab/non-binary afab atheletes?

    Or is it all of the the non-sarcastic ones with some of it acting like intergenerational momentum? So many possibilities. We won’t find out if the irrational fear of the faeders dosn’t end in the lek.

  76. chris61 says

    @83 Crip Dyke

    What is the point of “sex segregation” if the problem isn’t sex but rather muscle mass & upper body strength? It seems to me that, accepting your premises for the purposes of the argument, you’ve made no case for sex segregation at all.

    That’s what I’m saying – if there’s no case for sex segregation at all then let’s abolish it! Let everyone compete together or find a more rational basis of segregation.

  77. PaulBC says

    @86 I think organizing athletics according to size, weight class, speed, etc. makes perfect sense. What stands in the way of it besides tradition?

  78. John Morales says

    chris61:

    That’s what I’m saying – if there’s no case for sex segregation at all then let’s abolish it!

    Nah, you very explicitly said there was a case: that “we, as a society, see segregation of sports into female and male as valid”.

    When I pointed out your claim applies equally to apparel, you then added that there’s no prohibition against cross-dressing — which is specious; imagine Trump wearing a tutu in public!

    Regarding sports, there are already various divisions, based on age, skill, nationality, gender, disability etc. All are arbitrary.

    Me, I spent over 10 years playing with the Barossa Squash Club, and our competition was segregated by skill, not age or gender. We had a 15-yo who was in Division 1, we had a 62-yo in Division 2, and so forth. Of course, that was not elite competition for $$$ and endorsements and sponsorships, that was community sport.

    Point being, the segregation is not some sort of natural law, it’s a social stance. Just as is gender. Outside physical attributes and reproduction, gender doesn’t matter one whit.

    And if sport were to be segregated by strength, then clearly the stronger women should not be competing with the weaker ones any more than stronger men should be competing with weaker women.

    (Look at the history of (say) basketball, and the genesis of netball for an example)

  79. PaulBC says

    Disclosure: Following up on @87, my daughter was really into girls’ softball (less so now), and at least for kids, this is a particular kind of social interaction that really has nothing to do with dividing by athletic ability. It was a great experience for her. In fact at younger ages, the girls themselves vary a lot in size and strength. This could make a huge difference with a hitter, provided they also have the skill. (My son did some boys’ sports but it wasn’t quite as big a part of his life.)

    My kids’ swim teams were organized quite differently. Yes they competed in girls’ and boys’ events, but the team itself was mixed, including practices, parties, and awards ceremonies. So that approach also works.

    In the case of athletics divided by sex, you really will leave out the transgendered. Is this acceptable just because there aren’t many? OK, those with disabilities are left out too. (Or kids like I was who just weren’t any good, but I also never liked sports to begin with and was happy to be left out.)

    There are a lot of potential approaches here, and they’re not mutually exclusive. The point isn’t that the terms “male” and “female” are meaningless. The point is that they’re not exhaustive.

  80. PaulBC says

    @89

    imagine Trump wearing a tutu in public!

    Please, no!

    But right now, I find it really enjoyable to imagine Pence suddenly seized with the urge to chant “Beelzebub, Beelzebub” while a cloud of flies pours forth from his mouth. That’d be so cool!

    (And seriously, one little fly landing on his white-ass hair? That’s got everyone in a tizzy?)

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